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Crude Oil Futures Continue Their Fall

Crude oil futures plunged on Monday, weighed down by the combined effect of a broadly stronger U.S. dollar, data showing weakening growth in China’s manufacturing sector and ongoing fears over the euro zone’s debt crisis.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in July traded at USD97.09 a barrel during U.S. morning trade, plunging 2.85%.   

It earlier fell by as much as 3.3% to a daily low of USD96.56 a barrel.

The euro came under broad selling pressure, tumbling to a ten-week low against the U.S. dollar after Fitch Ratings cut Greece's debt ratings by three notches on Friday, while Standard & Poor's cut its outlook for Italy to negative from stable on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Spain’s ruling Socialist party lost to conservatives in elections on Sunday, raising concerns about how the country will address its debt problems.

The dollar index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, was up 0.84% to hit 76.42, after earlier rising to 76.54, the highest level since April 1. 

Dollar-denominated oil futures contracts tend to rise when the dollar falls, as this makes oil cheaper for buyers in other currencies.

Elsewhere, a preliminary reading of the Markit/HSBC Chinese manufacturing purchasing managers index fell to a 10-month low of 51.1 for May compared with a final reading of 51.8 in April, data on Monday showed.

The lower reading "heralds a further cool down of the world's second-largest economy as both domestic tightening and external supply disruptions kick in," Qu Hongbin, HSBC Chief Economist for China, said following the report.

China is the world’s second largest crude oil consumer, with the International Energy Agency forecasting that China will account for approximately 40% of global oil demand growth in 2011.

Meanwhile, on the ICE Futures Exchange, Brent oil futures for July delivery tumbled 2.85% to trade at USD109.17 a barrel, up USD12.08 on its U.S. counterpart.

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